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By Dylan Barmmer His career has been autographed with excellence and achievement. It has also been accented with setbacks and challenges. And as Danny Granger begins to carve out a niche and flesh out a role during his first season with the HEAT, the versatile veteran looks more and more willing and able to bring something special and impactful to his new teammates and organization. Granger entered the NBA as a cat-quick, long-limbed, silky-smooth small forward in 2005, joining the Indiana Pacers after a brilliant college career split between Bradley University and the University of New Mexico. In 95 games over four seasons at the two schools, the multi-talented, 6-foot-8 native of New Orleans averaged 16.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Granger averaged at least 18.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists in his final two college seasons at New Mexico, leading the Pacers to select the man nicknamed “Batman” with the 17th overall pick of the 2005 NBA Draft. Granger served a valuable role off the Pacers’ bench in his first NBA season, appearing in 78 games (and even making 17 spot starts) during the 2005-06 season. He averaged 7.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 blocks and 0.7 steals in 22.6 minutes a game, and helped the Pacers carve out a 41-41 record and a postseason appearance. Granger was also named to the All-NBA Rookie Second Team following his strong debut season. After his rookie season, Granger would soon evolve into the Pacers’ primary offensive threat, becoming more and more of a force over the next several seasons. After averaging 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds and making 57 starts in his second season, Granger averaged at least 18.7 points and 5.0 rebounds and made a minimum of 62 starts over the following five seasons. Granger’s finest campaign with the Pacers came in 2008-09, when he earned NBA All-Star and Most Improved Player honors by averaging 25.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steals in 36.2 minutes a game. Granger started 65 of the 67 games he appeared in for the Pacers that season, and set career-highs in scoring and blocks. He also shot 44.7 percent from the field, including a career-high 40.4 percent from behind the three-point arc – where he also drilled a career-best 182 three-point field goals. At the end of that brilliant season, Granger had raised his scoring average by at least three points per game every season for three consecutive seasons (7.5, 13.9, 19.6, 25.8) – becoming the first player in NBA history to post such dramatic improvement. After playing an intense, aggressive, all-out style and logging many high-impact minutes over seven seasons with the Pacers, Granger began to have some challenges with his knees. He was limited to 62 games during the 2009-10 season, though he still managed to average 24.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks. Granger also joined the U.S. Senior Men’s National team in the summer of 2010, helping the star-studded team win the gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship. Granger would bounce back to play extensively in each of the following two seasons, but would appear in just five games in the 2012-13 season while battling patellar tendinosis. In April of 2013, he underwent surgery on his left knee, and ended up sitting out the remainder of the 2012-13 season before returning to action last season. Granger appeared in 29 games for the Pacers last season, coming off the bench in all but two of them, before the only team he had ever played for decided to deal him to the Philadelphia 76ers for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen on the eve of the 2014 NBA trade deadline. The rebuilding 76ers decided to part ways with Granger after acquiring him, and he ended up closing out the season with the Los Angeles Clippers. In 12 regular-season games with the Clippers, Granger averaged 8.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 16.2 minutes per game off the bench. He would go on to play a solid role for the Clippers in the playoffs, appearing in 13 postseason games as a reserve. The 31-year-old Granger signed with the HEAT this past summer, and entered his 10th season as an NBA professional vying to serve a vital role as a bench sparkplug and scorer in Erik Spoelstra’s innovative and “positionless” rotation. Slowly but surely, he has worked his way into a rotation spot and more offensive opportunities. Since working his way back to game strength and shape following more offseason knee rehabilitation, Granger has now appeared in 14 of the HEAT’s first 35 games, including two spot starts. Granger has averaged 7.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.3 assists and 0.3 blocks in 20.7 minutes over those 14 games, shooting 45.2 percent from the floor, including a sizzling 42.6 percent (20-of-47) from behind the three-point line. Granger worked his way back into the HEAT rotation in a big way around the Holidays, and closed out 2014 on an absolute tear. With his recent string of strong, energetic, powerful play, he looks like a true weapon for the HEAT. Over the final four games of 2014, Granger scored at least 9 points and pulled down 3 or more rebounds in each game, averaging 15.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 0.8 assists and 0.5 steals in 26.8 minutes per game. Granger hit an incredible 24-of-34 (70.6 percent) shots from the floor, including 11-of-18 (61.1 percent) from behind the three-point arc. Granger’s year-end outburst began in a nationally televised Christmas Day game. He scored nine points and grabbed a season-high seven rebounds in 22 high-energy minutes off the bench, making several crucial plays on both ends of the court in the closing minutes of a 101-91 home win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Granger drilled 4-of-5 shots in that game, and his late-game energy and offense ignited the AmericanAirlines Arena crowd and helped secure a sweet victory. Granger followed that with an 18-point, 3-rebound outing in a 103-95 loss to powerful Memphis two days later, and on Dec. 29, he exploded for the most extensive and complete outing of his time in a HEAT uniform. Granger scored a season-high 21 points, pulled down 4 rebounds, dished two assists and snared one steal in a season-high 32 minutes off the HEAT bench during a narrow 102-101 loss to in-state rival Orlando. As efficient as he was explosive, Granger drilled 7-of-10 field goal attempts in that game, making 6-of-7 shots from three-point range. Two nights later, Granger closed out 2014 with a strong showing in a New Year’s Eve game against his old team, scoring 14 points and grabbing three rebounds in 25 minutes of a 106-95 loss to the Pacers in Indianapolis. The Pacers’ home crowd cheered Granger when he first checked into the game, but by the time he hit his second of two 3-pointers en route to those 14 points, they were less supportive of their former star. In the HEAT’s first game of 2015, Granger made less of a statistical impact – scoring three points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing three assists – but his all-around, all-out efforts over 31 minutes of passionate, professional play helped the HEAT earn a hard-fought and much-needed 88-84 win over the rival Brooklyn Nets. Just how much Granger continues to play – or how much of a statistical impact he makes when he does play – for the HEAT this season remains to be seen. But his rare blend of size, skill, length, toughness, versatility and veteran savvy could well prove to be an invaluable asset to the team down the stretch. Granger has always been able to score at a high rate (he has three 40-plus-point games on his NBA resume), and able to pour in those points in a variety of ways. Now, the experienced and seasoned veteran also appears to be evolving into a better three-point marksman than he has ever been. He can pose as an offensive threat for the HEAT at not just small forward, but also the shooting guard and power forward spots if needed, and is capable of defending multiple positions as well. He also possesses excellent ball-handling and passing skills, and can serve in a “point forward” role if called upon to do so. Granger also possesses considerable postseason experience, having appeared in 35 career playoff games, including those 13 with the Clippers last summer. He’s averaged 10.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.4 blocks in 25.7 minutes a game over those 35 games, which includes 19 starts. When the HEAT tangled with the Pacers during a thrilling six-game Eastern Conference Semifinals series in the 2012 Playoffs, Granger was a true postseason force, averaging 13.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 0.7 steals in 36.2 minutes per game over those six games. He started all 11 of the Pacers’ games during the 2012 Playoffs, averaging 17.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.4 blocks in 38.2 minutes per game over those 11 games. Granger clearly brings a lot to the table as the HEAT continue to evolve in the second half of this season, and his considerable skill set and experience help provide the team with flexibility, security and confidence.
By Dylan Barmmer It's not often that a 6-foot-11 man overflowing with talent and passion gets overlooked. Yet somehow, this seems to happen from time to time with Chris Bosh. Maybe it's because he plays alongside reigning NBA MVP and NBA Finals MVP LeBron James and high-flying franchise face Dwyane Wade. Perhaps it's because the league's all-time 3-point marksman, Ray Allen, has been making headlines and clutch shots since he joined the HEAT after five seasons with the rival Boston Celtics this offseason. Or maybe it's because Bosh is as humble, unassuming and down-to-earth as a towering, uber-athletic seven-time All-Star and former No. 4 overall draft pick is capable of being. It's probably a bit of all these things. And it's almost certainly no big deal to Bosh, who prefers to let his play do the talking. And through the first four games of the 2012-13 season, the 28-year-old Bosh has been playing at such a high volume, nobody can ignore the sweet sounds. Thriving in his new role as the starting center on a title-defending team, the one-time HEAT power forward is leading the club in field-goal percentage (58.3%) and blocks (1.5 blocks per game), and is second to only James in scoring (22.3 points per game), rebounding (8.0 rebounds per game) and field-goal attempts (60). Bosh is also second to only Wade in free-throw attempts with 20, and ranks third in free-throw percentage (hitting 18 of his 20 attempts from the line for an even 90%) as the HEAT have raced out to a 3-1 start. Bosh opened the season with back-to-back double-doubles in his new role, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in a 120-107 win over Boston in the season opener and chipping in 12 points and 11 rebounds in a 104-84 loss at New York three nights later. Then, the following night, Bosh turned in an absolutely electric performance in a thrilling 119-116 win over Denver with a game-high 40 points and 7 rebounds. The 40 points marked a HEAT high for Bosh, who hit 15 of 22 field goals in his breakout game, including 1 of 3 3-pointers, and was 9 of 10 from the free-throw line. He also had 2 assists and a steal in the win, which saw him score 20 points in each half and reach the 30-point mark with 7:28 remaining in the third quarter. HEAT coach Erik Spoelstra said later that he called only "two or three plays" for Bosh in that game, if that many. Bosh himself talked about being in the flow during the game...and boy, was he ever. Two nights later, Bosh scored a HEAT-high 18 points in the first half of a rousing 124-99 win over Phoenix, closing with 18 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks in just 25 minutes on the floor. Bosh drained 7 of 10 field goals and was a perfect 4 for 4 from the free-throw line. He also picked up the 700th block of his highlight-laden career. The 38 combined points marked the most Bosh had scored in the first half of back-to-back games since he racked up 38 from January 19-20, 2010. While the abundance of offensive options up and down the HEAT roster means that Bosh doesn't always explode for big scoring games, good things seem to happen with the HEAT whenever Bosh does go on a scoring spree. Bosh scored 20 or more points 22 times during the truncated 2011-2012 season, in which he made 57 starts, and the HEAT went 19-3 in those games. When Bosh scored 30 or more points, the HEAT were a flawless 5-0. As HEAT fans know, Bosh was highly instrumental in the club's Championship run last season, averaging 18.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.8 blocks in the regular season and 14.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.0 block and 0.6 assists in 14 postseason games (he suffered an abdominal strain in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals series against Indiana that caused him to miss 9 playoff games). Bosh fought back from the injury and returned just in time to help the HEAT vanquish the rival Boston Celtics in a grueling 7-game Eastern Conference Finals series, capped by a strong 19-point, 8-rebound performance in the HEAT's 101-88 Game 7 victory. Displaying toughness and talent alike, Bosh shone even brighter in the HEAT's 4-1 NBA Finals win over Oklahoma City, averaging 14.6 points and 9.4 rebounds and grabbing 9 or more rebounds in 3 of the 5 games. Bosh was huge in the closeout game, scoring 24 points, grabbing 7 rebounds and blocking 2 shots as the HEAT clinched their second NBA title with a 121-106 win at AmericanAirlines Arena. But perhaps the most telling stat was the HEAT's 5-4 record when Bosh was not in uniform last postseason. Without the versatile big man in the mix, the Pacers and Celtics were able to assign extra attention and defenders to James and Wade, and the HEAT had to work much harder on the boards, both offensively and defensively. All these numbers tell the tale of a player who is incredibly valuable to the HEAT, whether he's jumping center or manning the power forward position. But while the talented Texan's many contributions for the HEAT often jump out of box scores the way he sometimes explodes for a thunderous, screaming dunk in a manner that recalls the days of Alonzo Mourning, numbers don't often tell the full story about this unique player. Bosh's energy and enthusiasm seem to set the tone for the HEAT at times, and when he's really in the flow of the offense, the team becomes nearly unstoppable. Few players who stand almost seven feet tall can even begin to display the array of skills that Bosh embodies, and watching the 6-foot-11, 235 pound Bosh splash silky smooth jumpers, deliver pinpoint bounce passes into the paint and soar for emphatic two-hand slams is truly a joy for basketball fans -- especially HEAT fans. In addition to his lifetime 49.3% shooting from the floor, Bosh is a superior free-throw shooter, carrying an even 80.0% career average from the charity stripe. And over the past few seasons, Bosh has added the 3-point shot to his arsenal, draining 10 of 35 long-range daggers (28.6%) last regular season and a sizzling 7 of 13 (53.8%) in the HEAT's championship playoff run. So far this season, he's canned 1 of 6 from long-range, and with so many lethal long-range shooters now in the HEAT rotation, it's not a shot that Bosh will likely launch too often. It's clear that Bosh is a unique, efficient and energetic asset to the HEAT, and his continued evolution can only mean more good things to come for the club -- and all the HEAT fans.